Microsoft has been fined hundreds of millions of Euros after it admitted breaching a deal to offer Windows users a choice of web browser.
In 2007 developers of rival web browsers complained to the European Commission that Microsoft’s bundling of its Internet Explorer browser with Windows made it hard for competitors to gain market share.
As part of a 2009 settlement with regulators, Microsoft added a ‘ballot screen’ to European versions of Windows, offering consumers a choice of default browser.
However between February 2011 and July 2012 the ballot screen was inadvertently removed from Windows, placing the company in violation of its undertakings. It’s estimated that 15 million Windows users were not offered a choice of browser during this time.
On Wednesday EC competition commissioner, Joaquín Almunia, announced that Microsoft’s failure to ensure compliance would cost it 561 million euros ($731m; £484m) in fines.
In a statement Almunia said: “In 2009, we closed our investigation about a suspected abuse of dominant position by Microsoft due to the tying of Internet Explorer to Windows by accepting commitments offered by the company.
“Legally binding commitments reached in antitrust decisions play a very important role in our enforcement policy because they allow for rapid solutions to competition problems. Of course, such decisions require strict compliance. A failure to comply is a very serious infringement that must be sanctioned accordingly.”
The case is the first time the Commission has had to fine a company for non-compliance.
The fine was calculated by taking into account “the gravity and duration of the infringement, the need to ensure a deterrent effect of the fine and, as a mitigating circumstance, the fact that Microsoft has cooperated with the Commission and provided information which helped the Commission to investigate the matter efficiently.”
Responding to news of the fine, a Microsoft spokesperson said: “We take full responsibility for the technical error that caused this problem and have apologized for it.
“We provided the Commission with a complete and candid assessment of the situation, and we have taken steps to strengthen our software development and other processes to help avoid this mistake – or anything similar – in the future.”